DO YOU LIKE ANIMALS?
The Saints Loved Them
I am sure you have heard many stories about the saints' love of animals and their care for them. In fact, many saints' names suggest to us the animals t they lovcl . There are St. Jerome and his lion St. Antony of Padua and the fishes; -t. Francis and the birds; St. Brigid of Kildare and her cow; St. John Bosco and his dog; and many others I could name.
St. Ffancis of Assisi had an especial love of animals, and several delightful stories are told about him. I expect you have heard the one about the birds and how they all waited perfectly still until he had finished talking to them, and then fle‘v away to the North, South, East and West; but I wonder if you have heard o the wolf of Gubbio who gave the vill ers so much trouble that they asked S. Francis to go and see what he could de. They were very astonished indeed to see St. Francis come back a little while later with the wolf walking quite trnely behind him.
The ., ory of St. John Bosco and his big grey dog is a little more modern, but still very attractive. This dog used to come whenever St. John Bosco was in danger, and it was such a good guardian that it protected its master from many bad men.
You see, when we love animals, we know that the saints loved them just as much, if not even more than we do. It is a natural instinct to love them, and this love adds something rich and beautiful to our lives. I am sure you have heard stories of soldiers' love for their horses and men's love for their dogs.
We Can Learn So Much
Then again, we can learn so much from animals and birds if we have the patience. We can spend days in the country watching how they build their houses and feed and look after their young, and there is no more interesting study in the world; in fact, many men have given their lives to it.
Some of us, perhaps, cannot go to the country to watch animals in their natural surroundings, yet we can still see how they live by going to the Zoo.
The London Zoo is famous all over the world, and there are Zoos all over the country. The one at Whipsnade is especially lovely, because the animals have miles of open space to live in. You should go and see it if you have the chance; but choose a day when you are feeling very fit, because you have to walk a very long way indeed.
Go to the Zoo
If you live in London you certainly have been to the Zoo at least once, if not more often — but have you really watched the animals? You can spend hours looking at every animal and learn ing things about it. For instance, the penguins make a fascinating study. They all look so solemn and move so carefully that thy look for all the world like very pompous soldiers. They have a new pool now at the Zoo, Nsith an uphill walk which twists round and round, so that they can walk right up it and right down again and all round the edge of the pool.
The seals are especially fascinating to watch at feeding time. They are the most wonderful swimmers, and they dive beautifully and swim under water rnd suddenly jump right out of the water to catch the fish which the keeper throws to them. There is one big seal who is very greedy and seems to get all the fish, but you may be sure that the keeper sees that even the smallest seal has enough to eat.
On the Mappin Terraces the goats and the bears are very amusing and interesting. The goats climb about those rocky ten-aces so •quickly that eVery minute you think they must • fall, until you realise how sure-footed they are.
The bears are so graceful, in spite of their size, and you can see their muscles rippling as they catch the buns and fruit which the people throw to them.
The lions are very beautiful and they stretch so lazily in their cage that you hardly realise how strong they are until you see them fighting over their meat at feeding time. If you make friends with the keeper and if ycu are lucky enough to find him in a good temper he may take you behind and show you the little lion cubs. I once saw two of them, and they were so small that you could never believe they would grow into full-sized lions one day.
Perhaps the most popular of all the animals of the Zoo are the monkeys. They climb and fight and eat and play like a lot of noisy children. Have you ever watched a mother monkey spank ing her child? She makes it squeal, but it soon forgets again and goes off to play with the others as if it had never been naughty. Monkeys are wonderful climbers and acrobats, and they are fascinating as they leap from branch to branch, hanging on by their arms and legs, and sometimes even by their tails, and all with such effortless ease and so quickly that it takes your breath away.
Watch the Birds
All these animals are interesting, but to me the best part of the Zoo is the bird section. There are so many birds and they are all so different and so pretty that you can spend hours watc%ing them. It is a curious thing, hut the birds with the dullest feathers sing the best, and those with the gayest colours sometimes have very harsh screeches.
If you have enough patience and if you stand in front of some of the cages and whistle very softly you can get the birds to answer you. It may take hours before they get used to your voice, but When they do your reward will be great enough to make up for all the time you have spent. If you are lucky you will hear notes more beautiful than any musical instrument. Ask the keeper which birds sing the sweetest and try it next time you go to the Zoo. You will usually find that the plainest and smallest birds have the best notes— which gives us something to think about
Amon°. the Bee People
Young master Tawney was kind to a bee. He nursed back to health a poor bumble-bee who had stunned himself by trying to fly through a window-pane. Out of gratitude the bees invited him to visit their nest.
A professor bee had invented a medicine which would make a human beesize, and our young hero sampled it and was able to go inside the nest of the wild bees.
It is a great privilege to be invited by the bee-people to visit their nest, and Mr. Tawney found it as strange as it was exciting. Many adventures lay before him, but he survived all the dangers and came out from the nest a much wiser boy.
The Bee people are very interesting. There are bees just like real people, very peculiar people, but very real and terribly funny.
There is the King, the great and kindly Claudius, courtier bees, bumble bees, had black bees, soldier bees, and the scientist bees who had the magic medicine, not to mention the wicked wasp-folk. There is even an old warhorse bee, Colonel Mainsting, as fiery a wasp-eater as ever buzzed, and all sorts of other bee-people, just like the people you and I meet every day.
(Claudius the Bee, by J. F. Leeming. Harrap, 5s.)